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A splint is a simple device used in first aid and by doctors to immobilize broken or possibly broken bones to prevent further damage and allow the bone to begin to set. If the broken bone is in a finger or toe, a splint is usually sufficient care and no more permanent support is needed. However, for any larger broken bone, or a break in a joint (such as the wrist or ankle), a cast is always a better choice.
The concept of a splint is very simple. After bandaging or cushioning the injured area, two stiff supports roughly the size of the bone are placed on either side of the damaged bone, stretching from the joint on one side of the suspected break to the joint on the other side and then are tied together, usually with triangular bandages. For broken fingers, the use of a curved piece of flat metal approximately the same width as a finger and just over twice as long is the standard material.
In a hospital setting, flat pieces of wood or metal and sterile bandages are the usual material for a splint. However, in an emergency, anything can suffice such as branches of a tree, newspapers, string, rope, torn clothing or even several layers of stiff cardboard.
A splint is recommended for any suspected break and is taught as standard first aid. Not only does it prevent further injury, a splint usually alleviates the pain associated with movement of the broken bone.